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Can you imagine playing soccer barefoot with a leather ball?

14 Aug

I love reading about unusual stories from the history of sport. My friend Ola recently wrote a great article on

The Story of the 1949 Nigerian Football Team’s UK Tour

before I read this article, I had no idea that this tour took place. One of the aspects that I found most interesting was that they players did not wear shoes. I can’t imagine trying to play football with a lightweight plastic children’s ball, let alone a heavy leather football of the type used in England in the 1940s.

Ola’s article is really well-written, so even if you’re not a football fan, you’ll enjoy it.

Learning to climb

28 Mar

Back in January, I decided that I should say ‘yes’ more often to things that scare me, so when Roger asked whether anyone was interested in doing a beginners climbing course, I immediately expressed my interest. There was only a slight problem – I am absolutely terrified of heights.

By the time that March rolled around, 8 people had decided to sign up for the 3-week course, so it was only £35 each, which seemed like a good deal. I was still very nervous though, so I hoped that some humour would get me through:

Pug climbing

In the first lesson, we started off with learning how to put on the harnesses. I think I struck lucky and managed to pick one up that wasn’t tangled up, so it was quite straightforward.

Next, we learned how to tie the basic knots:

Climbing knot 1

Figure of Eight knot

Climbing knot 2

Figure of eight knot 2

Once we had learned to tie the basic knots, we had to learn how to attach one end of the top rope to the harness and tie a stopper knot.

The next step was to learn how to belay – we were taught the rhyme: “Vee, knee, 1, 2, 3” to ensure that we did it correctly.

After that, it was onto climbing. My partner, Lauren, and I had been practising the knots on ropes that were on the difficult side of the room. We didn’t think it would be sensible to start climbing on a wall with a massive overhang, so we turned to the other side of the room, which had a relatively flat face.

Like me, Lauren is a little nervous of heights, but she agreed to go first. She climbed up about 5 feet and then said she’d like to come down. It was then my turn.

I then realised something that Lauren and I had overlooked. Although the wall didn’t have any overhangs, it also had very few hand- and footholds and the ones that were there were really small. Like Lauren, I climbed about 5ft before realising that I couldn’t see anywhere to put my feet. Aarrgghh!

We moved to an easier section of wall, but ran out of time before I had a chance to climb again.

Group photo © Rachel Rutherford

Group photo © Rachel Rutherford

In the second week, we learned about anchor ropes. This made me feel less nervous as I know that I weigh a lot more than Lauren and I was worried that I might fall and pull her off the ground! We also got to borrow some climbing shoes. They weren’t the comfiest footwear, but definitely made climbing easier than wearing my running trainers!

The instructor came over and watched us climbing and told us that we needed to climb to the top of the wall by the end of the night. Oh no! It was time to face my fears! The instructor also explained the coloured routes and difficulty levels to the group… but Lauren and I knew that we would just have to use whatever hand and footholds we could find to get us to the top. I was so pleased when I finally managed it!

Week 3 was our assessment week. There was an odd number in the group, so Roger joined Lauren and I and we switched around between climbing, belaying and observing. I made some minor errors, but proved that I am competent enough to be allowed to climb 😀 Now I just need to get some more experience.

What do you know about the history of sport in Nigeria?

19 Nov

It’s a little-known fact that the first football match that I went to see was a friendly between Japan and Nigeria at the St Mary’s stadium in Southampton. I’m not a huge football fan and the weather was bleak (torrential rain), but the atmosphere was electric. The fans were incredibly friendly and also lived up to national stereotypes: there was the flashing of a thousand cameras every time a Japanese player got the ball, and the sound of the drumming from the Nigerian fans was thunderous. I LOVED IT! However, since then, I’ve not really seen or read much about Nigerian sports (although if you read my blog regularly, you’ll know how much I love Japan!)

A colleague has recently written some great articles that I think may be of interest to many people…

Ola Pic

My name is Olaojo Aiyegbayo and I am a freelance sports’ writer. I have published two sports’ stories so far – one features ‘Pele, Arthur Ashe and the 1976 Nigerian military coup’ while the second one is on ‘Pele and the Nigerian civil war’. I am Nigerian by birth hence my interest in telling stories about Nigeria’s sporting history. My articles are written to appeal to not just Nigerians but non-Nigerians as well. You can reach me via @olaojo15 or


Please do have a read of Ola’s articles – they are well-researched and I found them both to be compelling.

How did you get here?

15 Feb

I’m a stats geek, so I love looking at the stats dashboard in WordPress. This week has been a great week for me in terms of numbers – I tweeted for the 1000th time and my blog follower figures topped 2000, so THANK YOU to everyone who is now following my blog. (Remember that if you’d like to have every blog post delivered to your in-box it is possible to subscribe!)

I’m a little bit competitive, so I’m always trying to get new PBs in terms of views and viewers, but the bit that intrigues me the most is the searches that people type in that lead them to my blog.

Unsurprisingly, ‘fat girl to ironman’ is the key search term that people have used, with ‘running motivation’ a close second. Here’s a Wordle showing the search terms that people have used:

Search terms Wordle

There were some truly bizarre terms that people searched for, including “the majic number 96” and “iceberg lettuce collecting” as well as many that were too obscene for me to repeat here!

How did you originally find your way here?


Where I’m from

14 Feb

My sister Bryony (left) and I at the beach. Probably the only picture you’ll ever see of me wearing a bikini!

I am from home-made school uniform, from a class of four and lots of attention. From a bed full of toys and hours spent dancing. From days on my bike and jumping down sand dunes.

I am from a slate-fronted home tucked away by the towans where the whisper of the sea can be heard and children’s laughter echoes down the lane.

I am from gorse bushes and brambles, marram grass and bluebells.

I am from lime and lemonade and a packet of peanuts shared with my sister over-looking the sea. From hours with my brother in tutus and dresses.

I am from a fondness for sweet treats, a sweetshop and home-baking.

I am from Andrews and Trevillions, by way of Detroit. From generations of Cornish and from siblings in Australia.

I am from the fear of failure and the importance of education. From a home filled with books and beautifully penned letters from my father at sea.

From ‘you’ll have worse than that afore ‘e die’ and ‘ah, gusson with ‘e’. From ‘do what you’re told, when you’re told and not when you feel like it’ and ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

I am from an old parish church dating back to the 5th century, from congregations on a Sunday where I tried on my mother’s rings and searched my father’s pockets for Polos. I am from a winter spent bell-ringing and the close proximity of granite graveyards surrounding by blocks of slag.

I am from the Kernow of old; home-made pasties, Lancia tart, honeycomb mould and clotted cream with everything.

From the cosy aga in Grandma’s kitchen, from watching her kneading saffron buns and hevva cake. From the baritone of my grandfather singing in the bathroom. From the smell of my Grandpa’s pipe and my Grandma’s traditional tea set.

I am from the centre of a column of graduation photographs and the middle of a proud display of eight grandchildren. From a home far from here but always in my heart.



Here’s a template to write your own.

28 days of interval training

12 Feb
Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador

Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador

Need some inspiration and plans to help you workout on your own? Check out this fantastic month-long series of workouts by Girls Gone Sporty:


Push your boundaries, challenge your expectations! #PYBCYE

Why are you here?

23 Nov

Feedback cartoon

Hello! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that my posts tend to be about swimming, cycling, running, multisports events, nutrition and motivation… mainly focussing around my training and how I’m intending to reach my goal of completing an iron distance triathlon. Now I’d like to hear from you.

What would you like to read about on my blog? Which posts do you like and which ones do you skip over? I’d love some feedback from you!

I’m also always looking for bloggers who believe that their story and their blog would be of interest to people who read Fat Girl to Ironman. If you’d like to be interviewed and feature on my blog, please let me know in the comments below.

Work has submerged my world

29 Sep

I’ve not been posting much this summer as I’ve been so busy with my day job (which currently feels like a day and night job). It’s just as well that I really love what I do, and get to work with some amazing people, otherwise I could really start to resent it.

Anyway, it’s now just one week until my latest project goes live. I’ve been working with an amazing team of people from the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology to create a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) called Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds. The course will start on October 6th, but it’s possible to sign up now and the accompanying blog is also available.

More good news :-)

27 Apr

I found out today that I’ve been accepted as a Girls Gone Sporty ambassador 🙂

Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador

Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador

If you haven’t heard of Girls Gone Sporty before, then I’d recommend that you visit the website. It includes:

  • Fitness – This page includes all of the latest posts on topics such as yoga, zumba and running
  • Interviews – As it suggests this page includes interviews with a variety of people including Olympian Sanya Richards and TV star Mircea Monroe.
  • Food & Recipes – Healthy alternatives, reviews of diets and even information on growing your own food.
  • Lifestyle – Fashion and giveaways – what more could you want?
  • Reviews – Lots of gear and also some giveaways.
  • Ambassadors – Find out about some of the GGS ambassadors and perhaps find one who lives near to you!
  • Podcasts – Over 30 podcasts with fitness bloggers and other entrepreneurs.

Girls Gone Sporty is an online editorial magazine and a social community for women dedicated to living and leading sporty lives. In addition to providing cutting-edge content, we’re committed to creating a support system for women who are striving to be their best selves.

You can connect with Girls Gone Sporty on:

I’ve been added to a great group of girls (ambassadors are put into groups, so that we can get to know each other better, which is a great idea) – GO #TEAMSTELLAR! Here are links to some of their fantastic blogs:

…hopefully, some of these cool chicks will be featuring on my blog in future (hint, hint… I’m looking for some interesting bloggers to interview!)

“To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.”

8 Apr

In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded his fellow countrymen to be bold and accept that for progress to happen, changes have to take place, with the words:

“To reach a port we must set sail –
Sail, not tie at anchor
Sail, not drift.”

At the moment, I am being bold and embracing new opportunities that are presented to me. Today’s adventure was a day at sea. It’s another post that’s not directly related to triathlons, but it’s about exercise and before I’d learned to swim, it’s something that I would never have considered doing.

My dad loved the sea, having been a sea scout in his youth before leaving his home in Falmouth to go to Warsash Maritime Academy. He worked as an engineer for P&O for most of his life rising to the role of Chief Engineer Officer before coming ashore to work as a superintendent for a couple of years before his early death at the age of 54. One of my earliest memories of my dad is when he read Arthur Ransome’s novel “Secret Water” to me on one of our caravanning holidays. Aside from going to stay on a few bulk carriers with dad, we didn’t spend much time on the water… although he did buy a small boat when I was a young teenager. My main memory of it is sailing around St. Michael’s Mount for a spot of fishing, but I hated the ragworms and felt terribly seasick, so I had to jump off the boat and doggy-paddle back to shore!

Anyway, an opportunity came up to go sailing with Blue Box Sailing a Hamble-based sailing experience company and I jumped at the chance. It was a day of match racing, with two evenly-matched Clipper 60s.

Stuart arrived at Blue Box Sailing’s HQ on the Hamble river (famous for the 1980s BBC sailing drama Howard’s Way) at 9:45, which gave us an opportunity to meet the Blue Box team. Piers signed us in and made us some hot drinks whilst Sam sorted out waterproof clothing and life-jackets for us. We were then divided into two crews, with Piers on one boat and Matt skippering the other (keenly observed by founding director of Blue Box sailing, Jono). We were quite a small crew with Sam as the other professional crew member and then six of us amateurs… although Stuart and I were the only novices on-board; the others had significant experience!

We went down the pontoon and boarded Serica . The other team was on Taeping. Once onboard, we were told a little bit about the yacht we would be sailing – both Serica and Taeping were entrants in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race race in 1998, 2000 and 2002. It always amazes me that people are able to cope with such cramped living conditions for weeks on end.

Before we went anywhere, we had to do a bit of knot-tying. This was where the difference between the other ‘amateurs’ and us was obvious – it took me quite a few attempts to be able to tie a knot correctly. I think it may have been a bowline, but I’m not even sure of that :-S When I was a Brownie, I spent hours tying knots, but it’s clearly not my forte! Thankfully, Sam was very patient and I got there in the end.

Jono gave us the obligatory health and safety talk, before we slipped lines and headed for open water. There was a little bit of rain, but then the clouds blew over and we had fine weather for the majority of the day.

We had a few hours in the morning to practise all of the manoeuvres that we would require for racing in the afternoon. Stuart took the helm first, but then passed to me just in time for the lunch-break – sneaky thing! As soon as I was in place, I realised why Stuart had had such a look of concentration on his face… I was always aware that the professional crew could step in at any moment if required, but no-one wants to be the first person to require help, and I was conscious of the value of the yacht at all times; it’s like letting a learner driver out in a Ferrari for their first driving lesson!!!

Lunch felt like a feast with a variety of enormous baguette on white or brown bread (I’ve a feeling that chicken and gammon were on offer, but as a vegetarian, I opted for cheese), followed up with crisps, chocolate, biscuits and a variety of hot and cold drinks, all supplemented by flapjack that one of the others had brought along – delicious!

It was then onto the serious stuff of the day – racing Piers and his crew on Taeping. It looked for a while like they would win, but an unusual manoeuvre by them allowed us to take the lead. It was an awesome experience having to work so closely with the others to ensure that everything took place at exactly the right time. Although most of the others were seasoned pros, Jono, Matt and Sam ensured that they used terminology that Stuart and I could understand and they kept a watchful eye on us, so that no-one lost any digits (a distinct possibility with so much rope moving at high-speed!)

We were kept busy all afternoon, which meant that the time flew by and I didn’t have a moment to even think about whether my legs were feeling tired (and I suspect that my arms will feel tired from all of the winching tomorrow, so that’ll distract me from my legs again!) . All too soon, it was time to head back up the River Hamble. It was a truly amazing experience and one that I’m really glad I participated in. If you’re ever given the opportunity to go sailing, I would urge you to try it… and if you’re in the Uk and have the chance to come to the south coast, I would highly recommend Blue Box Sailing.

Stuart was first to take the helm

Stuart was first to take the helm


As you can see, the weather was lovely, with beautiful blue skies

As you can see, the weather was lovely, with beautiful blue skies

© Blue Box Sailing

© Blue Box Sailing

Clearly the other crew were the 'baddies' as Hollywood has taught me that black = bad and white = good!

Clearly the other crew were the ‘baddies’ as Hollywood has taught me that black = bad and white = good!

Stuart and Polly observing our competitors

Stuart and Polly observing our competitors

Our competitors were also observing us © Blue Box Sailing

Our competitors were also observing us © Blue Box Sailing

The match race meant that we ended up sailing fairly close together (although obviously in a controlled and safe way!)

The match race meant that we ended up sailing fairly close together (although obviously in a controlled and safe way!)